By Simon ManchesterSunday 1 Dec 2013Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
Not Distracted – 2 Timothy 1:13-2:13
I’m not sure whether you have heard of a man called Luke Short but he lived in Virginia in America in the 18th Century and I understand that he was sitting under a hedge one afternoon and he remembered a sermon which had been preached by one of the Puritans called John Flavel and Luke Short remembering the sermon suddenly responded by asking God to forgive his sins and to make him a member of his family.
Nothing unusual about that except that Luke Short was 103yrs at the time and had heard the sermon as an 18 year old 85 years before. He lived 3 more years to the age of 106 and they wrote this on his tombstone “Here lays a babe in grace aged 3 who died according to nature aged 106”.
I tell you that this morning because it is a great reminder that God is undistracted and unprevented from achieving his goals. If he is intent on saving a person he will save them. His timing is perfect and his place is perfect and although we may be distracted and we may give up on people,it is clear and obvious that God knows exactly how to reach and rescue his people.
Now this is a timely reminder as we come this morning to the subject of not being distracted in 2 Timothy chapter 1. This is the second in a seris in this little Letter of Paul to Timothy and if you would turn in your Bibles I would really love it if you followed with me.
And as you are doing that,I want to ask you to try to imagine young Timothy in Ephesus being told by Paul the Apostle that he must do some pastoral ministry. And there is young Timothy in Ephesus with some Scripture in his hand and a handful of believers who are a mixed bag and a lot of unbelievers who have yet to be reached and the question that you might ask at this point is “what should Timothy do? What’s the first thing to do? Do you build a building,do you hire an organist,do you get prayer books,what do you do when you start doing pastoral ministry?”
As somebody said to me this week,’what is success going to look like?’
Well I want to follow 2 Timothy 1:13 – 2:13,the subject ‘Not Distracted’ under three rough headings:
The first one is God’s Grace to Begin
The second is God’s Reward to Finish
And the third is God’s Word to Sustain
First of all – God gives grace to begin. I don’t know what you are about to do this week but if you are going to serve the Lord,you need his grace. You need his strength. You need his help and God gives grace,strength and help to serve.
(Verse 13) “What you heard from me,keep as the pattern of sound teaching,with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us”. So the Apostle Paul has given to Timothy a pattern or the word is a kind of a plan or a blueprint or a script and he says to young Timothy ‘hang on to the script’. If you want to know what to do,hang on to the script. And it’s a pattern,he says in verse 13,of what is called ‘sound teaching’ – and the phrase is literally ‘healthy words’. Good food,healthy food. And Timothy is to hold the script or hold the blueprint and is to feed God’s people with God’s healthy words and he is to do it in faith and love. In other words,he is to have faith that God will work and he is to have love for the people,even when the people are not especially responsive.
Now having said all that,you immediately (and you may say to yourself) well this is so dry,this is so academic – you know what is God’s family? Is it some kind of class room where everybody just sits and somebody gives a lecture – is that what ministry is all about? Surely it’s got more to do with being supportive and caring and providing help for difficult circumstances and Paul says “make sure the people as a first priority hear the healthy words of God”.
That’s what will persuade them of who God is and what he has done for us and what he calls us to believe and why he asks us to trust and how he’s going to help us obey – it’s the healthy words which are going to do the work of the ministry.
Well of course,this food being critical is very easy to dump and get rid of. The pressure is on the pastor to do something more interesting,more exciting,more dynamic,more showy,more visual and that’s why the Apostle Paul is calling on Timothy “hold the word,guard the deposit,keep teaching the words” because the word of God is exactly what people need.
They need the word of God in order to understand how to be saved. That’s how people get saved you know – they hear the words and we need the word of God to know how to trust his promises and to hang on,no matter how difficult circumstances are. And we need his word in order to know how to walk in his path and his directions. There is nothing more important that our heads would be clear on the word of God.
You know,a man wrote to me some months ago and he said “I want to thank you for saving my marriage”. Now of course it’s a lovely thing to have somebody write to you and say ‘thank you for saving my marriage’ – but I tell you the truth I never spent one hour with this man. I never talked to him about his marriage,I never met with him and his wife,and I never talked about their marriage.
What I did do is exactly what you would do if you were in my position which is to get up on Sundays and to teach the healthy words of God and as this man sat in this building,listening to the word of God,he understood the grace of God,he understood how it’s possible to be accepted with God through Christ. He learned that God loved him. This gospel transformed him. He began to love his wife. His wife began to love him and his marriage was saved by God.
Now God,of course,speaks to create the world,God speaks to call the church,God speaks to pastor the church and the mark of a healthy pastor (I used to hate this when I was in Theological College) – we kept being told this ‘if you want to be a good pastor,teach the word of God’. I kept on thinking – no,if you want to be a good pastor be really nice!!
But the Bible says,if you want to be a good pastor,teach the word of God. Friends,don’t fall for those people who say that the real pastor is the real cuddly person. It’s nice to know some cuddly people,don’t fall for the view that the real pastor is the one who just nods and echoes exactly what you are saying to you. The mark of the real pastor is that he works hard to understand the word of God and he feeds it to you so that ‘you get it’ and know about Christ and about his death for you and trust him and follow him and grow like him. This is what the Apostle Paul is calling on Timothy to do.
Well not only is Timothy to keep the pattern or the script but (verse 14) he is to guard the good deposit. He is to guard the text and we need to guard the text in the local church because,friends,it’s being attacked from all sides. And it’s being abandoned by pulpits and people all over the world. I know this because we struggle to teach the word here and we don’t do it particularly well but we work at doing it and then I have people from this church who say they have been elsewhere in the world and they got nothing of the word of God when they went to church. And I know that all over this city and all over this country and all over this world,there are people who are doing ministry which has got nothing to do with the word of God.
The Apostle Paul calls on Timothy “guard the deposit” don’t be ashamed of it,don’t abandon it. “You are a trustee” says Paul and all God’s servants are to be trustees. One of the marks I know about being a trustee is that you don’t get to sit around the table and say ‘you know I’ve been appointed a trustee and I think I’ll just change the rules of the Trust’.
When you are a trustee,you keep the rules of the Trust. And you make sure that it is protected and guarded and established. I always get bewildered therefore by people in churches who have a leadership role and they honestly think that they are going to teach a Bible Study,it’s going to be a big dull for their members when that’s the exact good food their members need.
I always get bewildered when people replace the Bible Study in their home with something like a paperback or a DVD series when it’s the healthy words of God that we need to guard and teach in order that people would be well established.
Now how’s Timothy to do this because the pressure is on to do anything but? And the answer comes in verse 13 and 14 ‘your faith and your love are in Christ Jesus’. (verse 14) ‘your help of the Holy Spirit’. Lift up your voice to God; ask him to strengthen you with conviction and courage to stay with the work. You get the same wonderful thing in chapter 2 verse 1 “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. Be literally continually strengthened.
You see what Paul is saying to Timothy – lift up your voice to God and ask him to strengthen you,to stay with the task when there’s every pressure to drop it and he will give you daily strength,he will give you grace to begin.
Wedged in between these verses are two little stories of people,one group of people who turned away from Paul and one man who has been devoted to Paul. You see in verse 15,there’s been a huge rejection of Paul all in the Province of Asia; all around Ephesus have deserted Paul,what a painful sentence. Probably as he was being arrested he found that no body would speak,there wasn’t a single person to defend him.
But there is one man,he says (verses 16-18) called Onesiphorus and he looked for Paul,found him,refreshed him and literally he cooled him,he strengthened him,he was not ashamed of Paul. And Paul lifts up a prayer that this man,Onesiphorus and his whole family,will enjoy mercy from God.
Now why is the reaction to Paul so important? Is Paul a bit of an egoist,does he say – I want to tell you all about me,me & me? Part of the reason,you see,is that Paul is an Apostle. If you turn your back on Paul the Apostle,you turn your back on the words of Christ. If you turn your back on the words of Christ,you turn your back on Christ. If you are devoted to the Apostle Paul in the sense that he is an apostle,you are devoted to the word,you are devoted to the speaking,and you are devoted to Christ.
So this first point that I am trying to establish this morning is that Paul is calling on Timothy and every servant of Christ to stay faithful to the word and to look to Christ for strength and he will give that help,he will give that strength,even though you and I lack it deeply.
The second thing this morning is chapter 2 verses 2-7 God’s reward to finish. God is one day going to reward his servants exponentially. I want to go back to the original question which I asked which is “what is Timothy mean to do now that he is a pastor in Ephesus?”
And the first answer is that he is to hold the truth by the grace of God and the second answer in verse 2 is that he is to spread the load. He is to spread the work. Here is a very interesting principle of ministry – you guard the gospel by giving it away to somebody. You guard the truth by distributing it.
Now many of you know that in 2010 at St Thomas’ we began a ministry called ‘Reliable Men’. There is nothing really secret about this – it was just an attempt given that most men are busy and running in all different directions. It was an attempt to find some men in the church who are reasonably mature,who would take 6 or 7 under their wing and attempt to take them through the truths of the gospel in a way that would establish them to do it for others. And we began with about 8 or 9 groups and about 60 or so men in these groups and I hope that we will have more groups and more men in the years to come.
Now of course when we started Reliable Men in 2010 it wasn’t that the work of handing on the word began because that’s been happening for years in this place. There are men in this church who have been reading with other men and discipling other men and caring for other men way beyond what we could ever organise – praise God for that. You don’t need some kind of system or plan or programme to start taking some men and meeting with them on a regular basis,reading the Bible and praying.
But we got our phrase from chapter 2 verse 2 “Reliable Men”. What we’ve simply tried to do is to pass on to others what faithful people have passed on to us.
Paul is therefore describing a relay which begins with Christ giving a message to Paul who gives it to Timothy who is to give it to reliable men who is to give it to others. Here is a five-step relay. And you’ll notice that the Apostle does not say ‘this is how to do it – just e-mail the truth’. He doesn’t say ‘just post them a CD’. He says I want you to do this and now I want to talk to you about being a soldier,an athlete and a farmer and he uses three illustrations that have to do with working incredibly hard to do the work of getting the word into the heads of other people who can then get it into the heads of other people and he uses three illustrations,farmer,soldier and athlete.
If you don’t mind me being rude this morning he does not say ‘the work of the ministry is like being a cook,or doing IT or being a dress designer’. My apologies if any of you work in those,for all I know they are very hard jobs,but he is using pictures of careers or vocations which are hard. He doesn’t even say ‘you are going to do pastoral ministry and you are going to be like a teacher,or a doctor or a parent’. Being a teacher,being a doctor or being a parent – exhausting – but he uses three illustrations which would seem to us to be even more stressful and more demanding and that is farmer,athlete and soldier.
And you may say to yourself at this point – ‘why would the Apostle Paul be likening ministry to farming,soldiering and athletics’? The minister in our church,you say to yourself,has the easiest life in the word. Six days invisible,one day incomprehensible and there he is just swanning about,drinking a cup of tea and occasionally giving a talk off the cuff – what are you talking about – farming,athlete,and soldier?
But friends I want to tell you if you want to get the word of God into the minds and hearts and lives of other people so that they can get the word into the minds and hearts and lives of other people,it is really hard work. It’s beyond us and if you don’t think that’s true,just ask yourself – ‘how long has it taken you to learn the basic lessons of repenting and believing’? I feel as though I am just learning them.
And how many people have you taken under your wing and caused them to be men or women who can teach others? There’s a good test. You see the Apostle Paul is not talking about an easy,stand up give a quick talk,drink a cup of tea,go home to sleep job. He’s talking about your ministry and mine which is disciplining other people.
And so we begin to realise these illustrations are very appropriate.
This week I was reading about ministry in the United States and you would think that ministry in the United States would be quite an easy place to do ministry. Quite a respectful place,certainly outwardly quite a Christian place,certainly being Christian is like I imagine motherhood and apple pie in the United States for many!
Let me ask you these three quick questions – How many do you think who graduate from Seminary to do ministry in America keep at it for five years? The answer is 1 in 2. Half who have been through Seminary give up after or inside 5 years.
The second question – How many in America get out of ministry every month? The answer is 1,700 pastors leave the ministry every month.
The third question – How many who begin ministry retire in ministry in the United States? They start,they finish and the answer is 1 in 10.
With Paul’s illustrations you see,we could spend a long time on farmer,athlete and soldier but we are not going to this morning. We are simply asking these questions by means of three illustrations – Timothy did you think it would be easy? Because it’s not going to be easy and even more important question –
Are you prepared,Timothy,to do the job to wait,wait and wait?
Have you got the patience of a soldier who will go through a lot of fighting before a victory?
Have you got the patience of an athlete who will go through a lot of training with the possibility of a medal?
Have you got the patience of a farmer who will go through a lot of early mornings and a lot of late nights in order to see the crops come in 6-8 months?
Are you prepared,says Paul,to wait and be patient?
A soldier,an athlete,a farmer have to be good at saying ‘no’ to lots of things in order to stick at one hard thing.
But God’s reward,says Paul,is at the finish. That is the most remarkable thing.
There will be a victory at the end of the battle.
There will be a medal at the end of the race.
There will be some crops at the end of the farming.
The reward that God will give to his servants,you and me,will outweigh everything which we experience or endure.
I want to quickly just comment on a few beautiful balances in these verses before we go to our last and brief and third point. I do want you to notice in verse 1 of chapter 2 that Paul calls on Timothy to be “strong with God’s strength”. There is a great difference,isn’t there,between you hearing me this morning and saying ‘I want you to be courageous,I want you to believe in yourself,I want you to pull up your socks,I want you to work hard,I want you to be brave’. That’s quite a challenging thing. Paul is not saying that. He is saying ‘I want you to look to Christ for his strength – lift up your voice’.
And then in verse 2 he says “look for reliable men who will be qualified or literally the word is “sufficient” or “competent”. Sometimes we talk about a man or women and we say “well they are faithful”. Faithful is not enough for effectiveness. They need to be faithful and competent. If a person is faithful and not competent,there will be ineffectiveness. Of course if a person is competent without faithfulness,there will be abandonment of the truth.
But Paul is looking for people who will be faithful and competent. Then you will notice in verse 7,he says “reflect on what I am saying,the Lord will give you insight. You need to think hard Timothy about the word that God has given us but you also need to ask his help to have insight into the word that God has given us. If you think that you will get your talk just by thinking,you will be arrogant. If you think you will get your talk just by some mystical revelation,you will be a fanatic. No – think,pray,think hard,ask God for insight.
That’s how you and I must read our Bibles and that’s how you and I must teach our Bibles – thinking and praying and the Lord will give insight. Well God will reward very greatly those who press on in his work.
The last thing is God will give his word to sustain us (verse 13). Stay with this,won’t you? Last week I was preaching and everybody was looking a little bit like Madame Tussauds’ Wax Works with the air conditioning left off so just stay with me for the last minutes,these last verses are worth getting!
Verse 8,”Remember Jesus Christ,raised from the dead,descended from David”. Why does Paul say that,what’s he talking about? Is he saying – remember that Jesus was human from David but now wonderfully raised in glory? Well yes,that’s pretty true. I think he is specially saying it because he wants Timothy to see that the Promise of the Seed of David has reached his goal on the throne and the word of God is always fulfilled and therefore you can trust the word of God. It was long promised,it has been eternally fulfilled.
And that’s why Paul says in verse 9 even though I am in chains,the word of God is not in chains,it runs freely,nobody can chain it.
Now Beng who is leading our service is working for a ministry where the word of God is going out on the radio and the word of God is going out on the radio to the countries of the world which are largely Islamic and it is a very wonderful thing that nothing can stop the word of God spreading around the world.
And the Apostle Paul is saying this – do you understand the word of God will be fulfilled and it cannot be chained. And that’s why he says in verse 10 “I am prepared to endure everything for the sake of the elect”. I am prepared to endure everything for their encouragement and even to help them be saved. And the reason he does this because he is a soldier,and he is an athlete and he is a farmer.
Now the last verses (11-13) have mystified believers for 2000 years and I wonder if you can see why? He says
“If we died with him,
We will also live with him;
If we endure,
We will also reign with him;
If we disown him,
He will also disown us;
If we are faithless,
He will remain faithful,
For he cannot disown himself”
Stay with me! It looks as though the first two “if” clauses are encouraging – if we die,we will live,if we endure,we will reign. It looks as though the next two are serious,sobering – if we disown,he will disown,if we are faithless,he’ll be faithful.
And some people have said,you see what Paul is saying here – there are two that are encouraging and there are two that are serious warnings. And the last one,’if we are faithless,he will be faithful’ means that if we turn from him he’ll keep his threats. If are faithless and give up on him,he will keep his judgment. There’s a lot to be said for that.
But I suspect that in this little poem,there are actually not just 2 twos,2 encouraging and 2 warnings but there are 4 different things being said and that’s why I’ve come to a different conclusion.
The first little clause is a word about being converted –
you die by giving your life to Christ – you live.
The second little clause –
You endure,that is you keep going on as a Christian – one day you will reign with him. That’s a message about persevering.
The third one is a very serious warning –
if you disown him,he will disown you. You turn away from him and say ‘I’m leaving,I’ve had enough’ – well you’ve left
But the fourth one,I think,is a word of final encouragement because it seems that what Paul could be saying is that when we are faithless,which is so easy in the Christian life and so easy in ministry,God stays faithful to his word. He is interested in his word,he is interested in his people,and he is able to restore us,forgive us,sustain us,keep us and protect us.
So there you see Paul’s appeal to Timothy looked to God for grace to begin your service. Don’t try to do it on your own – he will strengthen you. Wait for the reward which will come one day for your faithfulness. It will come as surely as a victory comes and a finishing tape comes in a race and as surely as crops come to a farmer. And in the present,there is this word of God which he keeps because he is faithful. And he will sustain you and he will uphold you and he will make sure you are kept in the path.
When I’d finish preparing this yesterday morning,I closed my little book of notes,I put my pen on the desk and I lifted up my little prayer to God and it went something like this:
“Heavenly Father,please give me the grace and the help and the strength for keeping and guarding the truth and please give me the patience and the hope to wait confidently for the last day and please give me your sustaining,your feeding so that I can endure and serve your purposes and I am praying this so that we would not be distracted as you are not distracted” Amen.